In the fall of 2014 the end of my LDS mission was quickly approaching. The transfer was scheduled to end a few weeks after my original date to go home and the Mission President generally allowed sisters the choice of either leaving 3 weeks early or staying 3 weeks longer. I had just recently received news that I had been accepted to the Ballet program at BYU (which was a HUGE miracle for me) and that upon returning home I could quickly jump back into my passion.
After a lot of thought and prayer, I made the decision that I would be going home 3 weeks early. In one of the last conversations that I had with the Bishop who was over the area that I was in, he made a comment that struck straight to my heart. “Sister Bowden, serving a mission is a lot like paying your tithing and when you’re not a full tithe payer you do not receive the blessings that Heavenly Father had in store for you.” I. was. crushed. In one sweeping comment I questioned all the efforts that I had been putting in for the past 16 months. Was it all for nothing? Was I going to be punished for making this decision? This comment haunted me for quite some time.
Upon returning home I was put in a position to quickly adapt back to regular life. I was going to school, working 2 jobs, and seriously dating a boy that I had been writing for the previous 6 months. I got engaged withing a month of being home to one of the world’s greatest men. Our happy moments however, felt very short lived. My fiance’s incredible mother had been battling stage 4 colon cancer for 16 months and was living on borrowed time. Because of these circumstances we received a LOT of pressure from family members to do our wedding in the way that they saw fit. It was so painfully difficult to feel like with every decision we were making, someone else was disappointed and hurt by it. I ended up feeling very unwanted by my soon-to-be-new family and that my happiness was the least important priority for our wedding.
2 weeks before our Big Day my parents were in a small airplane crash. After receiving a call from my brother and rushing to the hospital, I felt as if my world was falling apart around me. I couldn’t sleep at night because I kept having night terrors of my parents in the ER. In taking on the role of caretaker for their injuries, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.
5 days after our wedding, and yes while we were still on our honeymoon, my mother-in-law passed away. While we were wanting to be enjoying our time on the beach and in the sun, we instead were working through deep raw emotions of loss and sorrow. Our honeymoon had a deep sadness to it and I started to wonder if things were ever going to get better…
A few weeks later, during my ballet class, I went to do a leap. When I left the ground, I knew something was off and when I landed I was in excruciating pain. The doctor told me that this time when I tore my hamstring I had done permanent damage to the muscle and if I made the decision to continue dancing it would only happen over and over again. I laid in bed for weeks and cried. My one true passion was gone with a snap of the fingers and I found myself slipping into a dark and lonely place.
I struggled with wondering why all of this was happening to me. Why couldn’t I be truly accepted and loved by my in-laws? Why did my mother-in-law ever have to get sick? Why in the world would my hamstring tear after all of that? And why must I feel all this sorrow?
…. Now I’m going to tell the exact same story with the attitude of recognizing the Lord’s hand in my life.
In the fall of 2014 the end of my mission was quickly approaching. My Mission President had given me the choice of coming home a little bit earlier than originally planned. In making the decision to come home, I was faced with a lot of adversity which led me to spending a LOT of time on my knees speaking with God. For one of the few times in my life, I prayed with all the energy of my heart. One night while I was sleeping, the Spirit and the spirits of some of my ancestors conveyed to me how proud they were of me. And that I had completed a mission that had pleased the Lord. I felt his love and woke up in tears. I got to come home with the confidence of knowing I had served a good mission.
Upon returning home I was lucky enough to jump back into my life. There was no time for me to feel complacent or lazy, I was back in school, had found 2 really good jobs, and was dating a boy that I had been crazy about for months! We went on our first official date and it was very clear that he was it. We were engaged within a month. While being engaged, I got to witness the crazy amount of love that a family had for their wife, mother, daughter, and sister. It was incredible to be a part of and I hope that at some point I will be able to be loved and show love in that same loyal way.
2 weeks before the Big Day, a truly incredible miracle took place. While my father was working towards getting his pilot’s license, he took my mom to a flight out to Wendover and back. He made a critical mistake and the plane crashed from 800 ft. My parents were rushed to the hospital to find that they had some serious cuts, a few broken bones, but overall had NO critical injuries. After seeing the plane and assessing all the damage the only answer we kept being told was that it was a miracle my parents had survived. I couldn’t believe it. I truly believe that there were angels watching over and protecting them during this traumatic event. I know that the Lord was there the whole time.
My mother-in-law made it to our wedding. She was completely there and her presence brought an incredible spirit to our wedding. The reality of eternity was felt within those walls and I will never forget that sacred feeling. She was able to see all of our family members one last time before she left and I know that that was a heartfelt experience for many. It was a sweet and tender mercy from the Lord. It has brought renewed faith to me that our God is mindful of each of us in all our many varying circumstances. He is a loving Father and he cares for us deeply.
A few weeks later, I tore my hamstring for the 3rd and final time. It was one of the hardest things for me to accept but as time has gone on I have realized that there is more in store for me. I have been humbled and know that His plan, no matter how hard it is, will lead to a happier state of living. Not necessarily easier, but happier. After tearing my hamstring, we made the decision to start our family and I have been so grateful for the blessings that have come since.
…. I often think How did I ever get so lucky? I feel so grateful for all the wonderful blessings that have come through deeply challenging experiences. It has brought a lot of depth and understanding to my personality. I think that life is hard, and it’s ok if from time to time you struggle. Just keep trying. There will be small moments of peace along the way.